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Can science be done alone?

  1. Aug 15, 2005 #1
    The topic of peer review and its role in science has been discussed in other threads, along with other similar topics, but I wanted to rephrase the question to make it more direct.

    Can science be done alone?

    And some more that follow:

    Is it not science if one does not communicate the relevant information to other scientists? Is science necessarily a group activity? Does a scientist require another scientist in order to exist? Is it impossible by definition for only one scientist to exist?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 15, 2005 #2


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    There have been scientists who worked in relative isolation, such as Newton, Cavendish, Mendel, and Killing. Some were secretive, like Cavendish, and others had more or less defective communication with the scientific community of their times. Their results were communicated later by others.

    I feel the asymptotic case of a single, completely isolated scientist is entirely possible.
  4. Aug 16, 2005 #3


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    On the personal level, scientific&mathematical research IS a lonely activity (you are the one who needs to think through your ideas, verify them etc.)
    However, we do need stimulus from other persons in order to get the strength and inspiration in order to immerse ourselves in the given subject matter (i.e, necessary social recognition), and most of us needs corrective feed-back from colleagues and peers in order to not be led astray, or at least not stagnate mentally (i.e, necessary scientific feed-back).
  5. Aug 17, 2005 #4
    It would be difficult to accomplish anything in science today working completely alone. Scientists need to have contact with other scientists to be aware of what they are discovering because the discovery's of others allows them to expand knowledge rather than spend time rediscovering what is already known.

    In some fields working with others is essential because of the high cost of the equipment. Scientists must share facilities with each other.

    Complexity also requires cooperation. Individual scientists often only have time to study a part of the problem. For example, scientists studying the operation of the cell cannot study all the different molecules in the cell.

    The big problem today is just keeping up with what others are doing. Scientists end up spending time discovering what is already known.
  6. Sep 2, 2005 #5
    Thank for the responses. They really did justice to the question.
  7. Oct 4, 2005 #6
    I KNOW it is possible; but the work of other individuals in various fields were needed prior to the asymptotic case of a single, completely isolated scientist.
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